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Recent Blog Posts

Jul 28


Record audio of what your communities sound like. Use that sound to create a piece of writing that will help you gain a greater understanding of your communities. 

We belong to different communities, and every community we belong to, communicates to one another in a unique way. 

First, make a list of all of the communities you belong to. Pick two or three of those communities you belong to, and, specifically, participate a lot in. 

Second, record two minutes of audio from each community. Maybe you end up recording a song in band practice, or the clicking of needles in a knitting club, or the dinner conversation your family is having. Record the sound of the community. 

What you could do with this sound: 

Listen to each sound and reflect. Do these sounds accurately portray your community? Write two or three separate poems about what it feels like to be in each of these communities. While you write about a specific community, listen to the sound recording you made for that community.  

If your classmates wrote poems, listen to their sound and read their poems. Comment on their pieces. 

Read one of your poems to one of your communities while playing your sound recording. Do they feel like you captured the essence of your community? 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Nathan Ballif]



Use words and/or photos to describe the place where you feel most at home.  The best pieces will be selected for Young Writers Project's digital magazine, The Voice.

If we are fortunate, there is a special place where we feel at home. It could be the family kitchen, a favorite beach, a treehouse, a bookstore, a bedroom. Where do you feel safe, content, at home? Describe this place.
Or create a slideshow that captures "home."

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Dylan Sayamouangkhua, 2015)



Research and interview an elder in your town. You will create a valuable digital story that will provide a unique look at the history of your community.

This challenge will require several sessions -- but it will be worth it!   (Click here for a resource for this challenge.)

Choose an elder in your community -- it could be a family member, a friend, or someone you've never met, but who is willing to talk to you -- and interview them. Get them to tell you stories. (If it's a relative, get them to tell you a story that they haven't told before, or, at least they haven't told you.) (Ask for help from a teacher, family member, even the staff of a local retirement home.)

1.  Get the story  

  • Before your interview, prepare your questions -- everything you'll need for a fair and complete profile. Correct spelling of the person's name? Date of birth? How long they have lived in the community? Family members? Occupation? etc.
  • And because you're curious and you want to write a great story, think of questions that will elicit more than a yes or no answer. Ask your interview subject about anything surprising, interesting, unusual, funny that they think people should know about them.
  • Set up the interview. Bring an audio recorder and ask your interview subject if they would mind being recorded. This helps with accuracy and will be an important element of your digital story.
  • If your interview subject has one really amazing story, you might decide to focus solely on that one story. Or you might choose to write a full profile and just include the story as part of it. (Either way, make sure to ask plenty of questions to cover all the bases.)
  • After your interview, look over your notes. If you see gaps, you might ask for a followup interview.

2.  Write  

  • With the interview information still fresh in your mind, write your first draft on your blog. Get it all down. Listen to your audio recording to fill in any gaps and/or to accurately convey some of the best quotes. Read it over and take a first pass in organizing it.

3. Comment

  •  With a classmate, exchange posts and comment on each other's pieces, noting details that work, questions, confusion, flow. 

4. Write again  

  • With comments in mind, revise your work, proofread and polish it. Reading the piece aloud helps highlight mistakes and stumbles.

5. Add sound and images  

  • If you have audio and photos from the interview, you can create an amazing digital story. There are many options, including narrating the story using your written piece, including the back and forth conversation from your interview, pulling together the best quotes, adding current and historic photos, etc. Audacity and PhotoShop are great tools (more in Resources).

Remember to check out this resource for inspiration: Frank Glazer - An Elder Story.

Exercise Extension:

Invite senior storytellers to your class to tell their stories. Interviewing and writing their stories can be an amazing group project!


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madeline Green, 2015)

Jul 27

Environmental Portrait

With this activity, you will be learning the digital art of taking environmental portraits. You will be analyzing your own community, as well as gaining a greater understanding of what a person's identity looks like in a certain community setting. 

An environmental portrait IS NOT a picture of nature. An environmental portrait is a staged photograph of a person in an specific environment, or with objects, that describe who they are visually. An environmental portrait could be a chef holding a cake, or a writer smiling in a library, etc. 

First, think of all of the communities you belong to. Think of communities that have multiple interesting and unique qualities to them. 

Second, take an environmental portrait of each person in that community — including yourself. Show who the person is through your photo. 

Third, create a slideshow of all of your images. Think: what connects this community, yet what are the traits that are unique to its members? 

Think: what about each of these people, and this community as a whole, can you not capture in an image? 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Derek Pham]



This is a year-long project. Create a photo story that shows how your community celebrates various holidays through the seasons. 

  • Reflect on how your community celebrates holidays. During these holiday times, take a walk around your community and document what you see.
  • Take photos of decorations, parades, that special spooky Halloween house, the Harvest market, anything that captures the essence of the time. 
  • Observe and write down the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings you encounter on your walk. Record as much detail as you can.
  • Collect the photos and descriptions for a year-long photo story of your town.
  • Is there a holiday that is missing in your town? Make a proposal to your town government to organize an event around it. (They are more likely to react positively if you offer them a solution, rather than a problem.)

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2015]


Character's Playlist

You thought you had the perfect character, but now you’re stuck. Get unstuck by creating a playlist for your character.

You want your character(s) to seem real, so you need to get to know them. Figure out what emotions motivate and define the character(s). What are some potential conflicts? And ... key to this exercise ... what music do they listen to?

1. For each character, think about the personality you have imagined for them, and then go deeper. What really ticks your character off? Where does your character feel most at peace, most at home? What do they like? Dislike? Who are they friendly with? Who do they dislike? Why? What are the back stories behind each of their emotions?
2. Start with your main character and create a blog entry in which you post the character's favorite playlist. Upload a few songs from the playlist to your blog and in the body of the blog, explain why each song is meaningful to your character.
Why create a playlist?

  • It will make you think more deeply about your character's emotions and goals and motivations.
  • It might inspire someone else who is reading your post to make their own characters deeper.

3. Listen to the playlist and jot down descriptive words that help explain your character. Music is almost a backdrop for your character's life.
4. Share your blog with a friend, classmate, teacher and ask them to listen to the playlist and suggest one potential conflict this character could be confronted with (one that would lead to a good story).
4. Take your own understanding of the character and the best suggestion(s) from your peers and/or teacher to create your character's story.

Click here for free sound resources.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016)

Jul 27

Open to Advice - Part I

Feedback helps your writing, but sometimes we don't want to hear it. Use this challenge to help you practice being more open to constructive criticism.

A huge part of writing is revision, and to revise, we need to know what needs to be looked at. Feedback from a friend, a teacher, a YWP mentor can really help you identify trouble areas. Yet, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s really hard to accept feedback or criticism on something you worked really hard on. To grow as writers, we need to practice being open to feedback.


1. Take one of your recent My Community pieces that you have not yet edited.

2. Give yourself feedback on your work. What could you improve? What are the big details (not grammar) that need your attention?


3. Give your piece to a friend. Look at their feedback, and have a conversation with them about their comments. Be open and accepting of their advice, and make sure to thank them. The key is to have a productive conversation, not to get offended.

4. Move on to Part II.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Alan Levine, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/]


Jul 27

Polish Methods Part I

With this activity, you will be analyzing your polish methods and trying to determine what method works for you. In Part I, you will be doing all of the polish. In Part II, you will be handing the work over to a friend.

First, take the most recent My Community piece you have been working on. Do your revisions and large edits first.


Second, now comes the polish, aka, fixing your work for grammar, typos, etc. Print off two copies of your piece, keep one up on your computer, and find a colorful pen.


Third, read through your piece on your computer and highlight your typos.


Fourth, now, with one of your printed copies, read through your piece and mark your mistakes with a pen. THEN, start over on the same paper, but this time, read your paper upside down and find your mistakes.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Eliezer Borges, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eliezerborges/ ]

Jul 27


Use audio to help you organize your thoughts, and learn how to deliver a speech that will make an impact on its listeners.

When you’re graduating high school, the valedictorian is often asked to address the student body, and, specifically, the class community you grew up with. They might give your community advice, reflect on the good times you all had together, or will speak about how you might strengthen your school community.


First, imagine you are the valedictorian of your graduating class. Jot down a basic outline of what you would like to say to your school community. What final message do you want to give to them all? What is the one thing you think your class community needs to hear?


Second, read over your outline and ideas. Don’t write out your actual speech. Instead, just start recording your speech. Say what you really want to say to your class.


Third, listen to your recording. If you don’t like your speech, record again. After you finally have a take you like, send your audio file to someone in your class. Ask them if they liked your final message to your community, and get their feedback (if their feedback makes you want to record again, do it).

Listen to the speeches of your classmates. Are your messages different? The same? Is there some unifying theme people have identified in your community? Comment on their work.

[Creative Commons Lisence: John Walker, non-commercial,

Jul 26

If only ...

Learn how to take take a rant about issues at school, and turn it into a productive piece of writing that can be used to create change. 

Do you have problems with your school community? Maybe you have suggested a club that should be formed, or a problem that should be fixed, or a subject that should be taught, but it feels like your school just won't do anything about it. 

Action Plan:
1. Without any preparation or concern, record an audio rant about an issue at your school. Let out your emotions, and let out your frustrations. Record for as long as you need to. Say what you want. This doesn't need to be perfect. 

2. Listen to your recording. Take note of good points you made, and what you were most passionate about. 

3. After you have analyzed it, write a letter to your school that is articulate, reasonable and appropriate, stating your opinion about the "problem" you think should be fixed -- and offering a solution. 

Remember to comment on your peer's letters. 

Record your letter and send it to someone at your school who will listen. Your voice might provide all the convincing they need!

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Mackenzie Rivers, 2015] 

Jul 26


Think of someone you admire, someone who has helped change your life for the better. Write a poem that reflects on how this person has helped shape you as a person.


1. Create a list of mentors in each of your communities (family, town, school, teams, etc). These are people who have sparked at least one positive change in your life.

2. Pick one of these people and think about the change you have experienced because of this person. Write your poem. Don’t mention their name, just their actions.

3. R
ead your poem to your mentor and ask for their reaction. You never know, you might be able to turn their reaction into the last line of your poem.

4. The best will be published in The Voice, YWP's digital magazine.

5. Comment on the poems of your peers.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photi by Kevin Huang, 2015]


Workshop > Commenting - Part II
Jul 26

Commenting - Part II

There is a fine art in giving and receiving comments. This is an important lifelong skill.

Feedback or commenting is critical to great writing. And the more comments you give to your peers, the more you will receive. Share and be generous. To provide valuable feedback, you must read the writer's piece carefully and thoughtfully. What do you like about it? What questions are you left with? Is there an area that could use some improvement? Be clear, be kind, be engaged when giving comments. If your class set up guidelines on commenting in Commenting - Part I, review them before starting this challenge.
(Read more in Resources)

In this exercise: 

  • You and a classmate share a piece of writing, something relatively short and -- if possible -- needing a little help to lift it to the next level.
  • Read the piece through, without stopping.
  • Read it a second time, this time with a pencil in hand to make marks and comments as you go.
  • Take turns providing verbal comments. Always start with the positive. What do you like most about the piece? Then move on to some constructive criticism -- you might discover the one little problem that eluded the writer. (Remember: Great writers have great editors!)
  • When it's your turn to receive feedback, listen with an open mind and an open heart.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Shenali Wijesinghe, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2016)


Debate - Part I

The community you are born into is not always the community you live in for the rest of your life. Practice the skill of debating and articulating your opinions by using this difficult topic as a stepping stone. 

  • Conduct a debate with yourself on paper. What are three reasons to stay in your hometown after high school? What are three reasons to move? Don’t be afraid of your own opinions.
  • Analyze your own debate. Do you feel like you have your answer? Why or why not? 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Ethan Powell] 

Jul 26

Physical Issues - Part I

By using your oberservational and photography skills, look around your community for physical issues. Use your pictures to create a positive change in your community. 

Think about some of the physical issues in your community. Are your roads dangerous to drive on? Has your local playground been vandalized? Have people stolen street signs in your town? 

1. Find a friend and take a walk around your community. Using a phone or a camera, document all of the physical issues you may see in your town (a broken swing, a cracking sidewalk, a road with faded lines, etc). 

2. Make a slideshow of these pictures and think about why each of these physical issues might cause a problem, or even a threat, to your community members. 

3. Be proactive. Send a letter and a link to your slideshow to local officials to point out the problems in the neighborhood!

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Harlie Johnson]  

Jul 26

Family Traits

This is a poetry prompt that will get you to reflect on who you are, and a community that has greatly helped shape you as a person. You will produce something creative, and something reflective.

Imagine you are deep in the woods, and deep into the rainy night, with nothing but your fire for company. You find yourself thinking about home... about your parents and family. You think about the traits you've inherited from them, but also the ways you're very different.

1. Make a list of those similarities and differences.
2. Make a "list poem" out of the traits list you have created and out of the setting in the challenge.
3. Read your poem to yourself. Does your poem give you a new insight into how your community shapes you?
4. Comment on the poems of your peers, and ask for their feedback on yours.

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016]